I've been writing an article a day for 50 days now. I started this to help build a portfolio, keep track of useful learnings and to become better at writing. This post reflects on the progress so far.
While there are many sources of inspiration for my writing, Sacha Chua's No Excuses Guide to Blogging is the biggest one. I bought the book around 2 years ago but I've found it useful and kept coming back to it. If you're considering blogging stop reading this article and go read that book.
I found the advice "It's okay to write about different things" very useful. It takes the pressure off of writing a particular thing and means I can write about writing email in emacs, using excel and extracting job ad titles even though the audience has very little overlap.
Another useful piece of advice from Sacha Chua is "Turn ideas into small questions, and then answer those." I have a tendency to want to write long articles, research and understand everything and explain it in detail. By focusing on the smallest question I could answer in one sitting has let me write articles like getting started with the Python debugger, how to look up Australian addresses using G-NAF and how to debug Powershell scripts. It's also been the cornerstone of my series of articles on extracting information from job ads, where I can focus on one specific approach and how it works.
What's gone well
Making writing a blog post a daily habit has worked really well. I've tried weekly or semi-weekly before, but I lose track of it. Having an achievable goal of writing a post (any post) each day has been very productive, and not breaking the streak is very motivational.
It's helped me record things I always lookup like how to display all columns in R with Jupyter, how to get disk usage to depth 2 or how to turn a pipe table to a CSV. Writing helps me reflect on the types of things I've been working on and how I spend my energy, as I sit down each night and think about what I should write about. This is making me question how I'm spending my time, and slowly guiding me to work on things I'm proud to write about.
It's helped me focus on projects like extracting job ad titles. Keeping a running writeup of my experiments has kept me working on it much longer than I would have otherwise. There are times when I'm busy with other things and too tired to work on it, but I now have a reason to keep coming back to it when I have the energy.
Writing helps me think through things more deeply. When writing about calculating moving averages in SQL I really thought deeply about the different approaches and their tradeoffs. Writing how to use the Python debugger made me read the manual and discover useful features I wasn't aware of (like interact). Writing about the rule of 5 for confidence intervals I implemented the calculation and understood how to generalise the rule.
Having a picture for every blog post was a little intimidating, but makes me much prouder of the results. At worst I just take a screen grab of a terminal but it's great when I see a relevant image when I publish the post.
An unexpected benefit is my article on the awesome DAVx5 app for syncing calendars and contacts was tweeted by the team (despite no publicity on my part). It's really great to see writing something about a good product has helped them in some small way.
What's gone less well
Most of my articles have been technical how-tos because they're the easiest for me to write. I'm trying to write more articles that help me think through my own position, like the four analyst competencies, but I find this takes much more time and effort. This is likely because I need to spend the time to write them.
Sometimes I have distracted myself with another piece of work to write a blogpost. The 4am rule for timeseries was meant to be a quick article but I spent a couple of hours finding an example to illustrate it and realising it was more subtle than I thought. When writing about the G-NAF for location addresses I wasn't actively working on it and spent a couple of hours re-researching how to use it. I think this is because I've been too scared to write about things I haven't figured out yet, and need to be braver about sharing while I'm learning.
I still need to keep making writing a habit until it gets easier. I want to try to find my voice and be a bit less boring. I'll continue sharing the variety things I learn each day. I want to focus more energy on the series of extracting information from job ads.
I want to focus on sharing while I learn, even though I find it very uncomfortable. I think finding the smallest achievement and writing out the questions is a good way to do this.
Currently I'm not actively promoting my writing, nor editing it to make sure it's readable. Eventually I want to get there, but for now I'm happy writing just to share my discoveries. Maybe I'll come back to this in another 50 blog posts.
I've had a lot of fun writing daily articles and want to continue doing it. I'll keep coming back to No Excuses Guide to Blogging as I continue on this journey of sharing learnings.